South Carolina

Injured by drunk driver, boy is deputized by SC sheriff day before he died, police say

Ethan Frank Rubenzer died days after a car crash.
Ethan Frank Rubenzer died days after a car crash. Twitter screen grab

Three days after a car crash severely injured 11-year-old Ethan Frank Rubenzer, the boy died from his injuries in the hospital, the coroner said.

Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright went to the hospital to see Ethan before he died, according to WYFF. “He said he wanted to work for me one day. I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose that opportunity to deputize a great, brave young man,” the sheriff told the station.

“I put a challenge coin in his hand and I gave him a little small badge and I told the staff up there to please refer to him as Deputy Ethan Rubenzer and they did,” Wright told WYFF.

Wright deputized Ethan Saturday night, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal reports. Ethan died the next day.

Michael Eugene Kelley Spartanburg County Detention Center

Ethan would have turned 12 on Friday, according to High Point Academy, where he was a sixth grader.

The Highway Patrol said 29-year-old Michael Eugene Kelley II crashed into the car Ethan and his mother were in at 7:15 a.m. Friday, WSPA reports.

Kelly was originally charged with three counts related to driving under the influence, but the charges “have been upgraded to two counts of felony DUI resulting in great injury and one count of felony DUI resulting in death,” according to Fox Carolina.

Ethan was on his was to school when, police say, Kelly hit the car the boy was in and it rolled over, according to WSPA.

The boy and his mother were on their way to High Point Academy, Fox Carolina reports.

Ethan was a vibrant young man who always brought a smile to our faces, and he will be immensely missed,” the school said in a statement. “This is an incredibly difficult time for our school community. We grieve for the loss of a young life, and our thoughts remain with the family, friends, students, staff and community members who have been impacted.”

Services are planned for Wednesday, according to Ethan’s obituary. “Ethan has always wanted to be an organ donor like his grandma, Karla, and now his spirit and personality will live on in the recipients of his gifts,” the obituary notes.

Named after Lexington 6-year-old Emma Longstreet, the 2014 law requires installation of device on vehicles of first-offense drunk drivers

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.